Monday, September 25, 2006

Gentle sedition

WOULD it save the planet if we all went back to walking? I will always associate the unlamented Presidential Proclamation 1017 with the TV image of men beating people that had just been walking on the streets.

How could anyone save the most paranoid see walking as sowing the seeds of rebellion?

Walking is the most gentle of preoccupations open to humans. In 10 years of serious walking, I have never run over a dog. I have not sent a vendor’s boiled peanuts crashing to the sidewalk. I don’t recall offending anyone because I always cooled off under the nearest shade before joining human company.

Non-violence, coexistence, deference. Is there any act more pacific?

Those who know me may argue that I was meant to rely on my feet (and public transport, when necessary) because I can hardly follow road directions, refuse to tinker with anything mechanical, and cannot afford anything that has a wheel or more.

While true, these causes have led to something that’s less of an accident than a fire stoked every time I put on socks and shoes.

Low-tech purists who swear by sandals and bare feet may look down on my reliance on moisture absorption and good traction. But pragmatism should be what is cheaper in the long haul. I will scare off clients by showing up in sandals that bare my toes, dead as clich├ęs from being stepped on countless times in crowds and jeepneys.

Walking does require clothes that, contrary to today’s trends, are not really planned the night before but thrown over the body intent about walking in comfort. So, shoes and socks that hug and accept you, bunions and all. Anything in cotton as it is light and quick to dry.

Nudity, however, is not yet in fashion. It may mean zero weight, but the gas pains can cramp your stride.

Every walker dreams of walking without any burden. Is that possible in our world, where property is as important for establishing identity as a laminated social security I.D.?

As I walk daily, in between classes and appointments, I always tote along books, water and stuff. This preoccupies my hands, which can be attacked by a diminished sense of value since walking basically involves the lower extremities and a head full of digressions.

Or carry a placard or wave a fist, if you please. However, “push to eject” buttons or shirts shrieking “Oust the Pretender” do tend to attract pesky proclamations or paranoia.

From my experience, paranoid canines pose greater risk to walkers than the human variety. In certain streets of our village, the dogs always whip themselves to a frenzy whenever my husband and I walk by after dinner.

Walking promotes tolerance. If I were leashed all day, I would also howl to make sure the rest of the street knows life was not just passing me by.

“This is so horrible,” I would bay. “She’s wearing again the same shoes.”

“You don’t say,” barfed the boxer three houses up. “You should endure watching her behind.”

It must be why I love cats. If you come across one while walking, it will sniff the air to make sure you are not dinner material and then slip away. Impenetrable creatures that keep their opinions to themselves.

I love best that walking, in the gentlest of irony, encourages solitude and communion. Walking at dusk in Banilad, I lug books and paper while other hikers tuck under their arms tools and saws with their serrations sheathed in improvised orange plastic tubes, and government workers swing along tiny bags holding empty lunch kits.

I close most days walking with a person who makes the same turn, left or right, as I do. In a world of subverted lives, it is no small certainty to have someone I know like the bump on the first joint of my right toe.

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